The clear, sharp bark of a fox pearced the rural solitude. A blackbird sang and a magpie screeched from the uppermost branch of an ancient oak . The tree stood close to the 18th-century farmhouse, it’s boughs almost touching the building’s sandstone walls.
Jennifer Lewes stood at the open living room window, drinking in the fresh Yorkshire air. She was, Jenny thought lucky to have secured the property at a knock-down price. The previous owner had gone bankrupt and wishing to make a quick sale, in order to clear debts, had accepted her first offer.
Jenny turned from the window at the sound of heels clacking on the kitchen’s stone floor,
“I’m bored shitless” her cousin, Luan said.
“Why not go for a walk down to the village? I need some groceries. You could pop into the shop and buy them for me”, Jenny said.
“Don’t wanna do that. There’s nothing in bloody village cept old people. I wanna go back to London. There’s sod all ere”, Luan said, kicking the legg of the kitchen table.
“Don’t do that Luan, it’s an antique”, Jenny said, swallowing down the anger which she felt welling up in her.
“You don’t care about me. All you cares about is things”, Luan said raising her right foot to kick the table again.
Jenny moved in front of the girl, before she could put her intention into action. Luan glared at Jenny and before she had time to react raked her nails across her face.
Jenny raised her right hand. Trembling with emotion she glared at her cousin.
“Go on, I dares ya”, Luan said.
For several minutes the girl and the older woman stood toe to toe, fists clenched, attempting to stir the other out. The grandfather clock struck 10 am. The sound caused Jenny to recollect herself. What the hell was she doing, a woman of 25 raising her hand to a 15-year-old girl. Jenny let her arm drop,and reaching for a piece of kitchen towel began to wipe away the blood which flowed from a scratch above her right eye.
“One more outburst like that and I’ll be straight on the phone to your probation officer. Mrs Maddox can take care of you. You remember what the magistrate said, “this is your last chance. If you come before the court again you will, in all probability be sent to a young offender’s institution”. Is that what you want Luan? Well is it?” Jenny said.
Luan began to cry quietly. Despite her tough demeanour the thought of a young offender’s institution terrified her. She had heard tales of girls being driven to suicide as a result of bullying by other inmates. Stories of physical and sexual abuse made Luan feel sick to the pit of her stomach.
“Sorry Jen”, she said, looking up with tear filled eyes into the face of her older cousin.
“OK, we’ll go to the shop together and, if you can behave maybe go for a trip into Leeds afterwards. It’s not London but it’s a city and we can look around the shops”, Jenny said.
Luan’s face brightened, “I can go by meself. Give me the bus fare”, Luan said.
“You must think that I was born yesterday young lady”, Jenny said.
“I aint gonna do anything”, Luan said.
“I’m not taking the chance. The last time you went to court it was for shop lifting. Either we go to town together or you don’t go at all”, Jenny said.
Luan’s face fell.
“Well what is it to be young lady?” Jenny said.
“Suppose I aint got no choice. I’ll go with ya”, the girl replied, her face a mask of disappointment.